Meeting on Road Projects

Meeting on Road Projects

Prince William Discusses Roads Affecting Fairfax

High-up transportation officials spoke last week at a Prince William County gathering about road projects that will affect that county, as well as Fairfax County.

Both the Battlefield Bypass and the Tri-County Parkway were discussed. Yet no one representing Fairfax was on the panel, and those attending from this area — while welcome — pretty much invited themselves.

* THE BATTLEFIELD BYPASS is a federally mandated project ordering a study be done to eventually close Routes 29 and 234 through the Manassas National Battlefield Park and divert the traffic from those roads elsewhere. Alternatives proposed so far would send all these motorists through Centreville neighborhoods including Fairfax National Estates, Virginia Run and Bull Run Estates.

* TRI-COUNTY PARKWAY: Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan identifies a possible alignment for a north-south connector linking Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and relieving future traffic congestion on Route 28. However, south of Route 29 in Centreville, this Tri-County Parkway takes an almost 90-degree turn east, turns south again and runs right through Bull Run Regional Park, plus homes and stables along Bull Run Post Office Road.

Hosting the meeting, last Monday, March 31, at Sudley United Methodist Church in Manassas, were two Prince William-based groups — Friends of the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Prince William Conservation Alliance.

On the panel were Battlefield Bypass project manager Jack Van Dop of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Tri-County Parkway project manager Ken Wilkinson with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Prince William County Transportation Director Tom Blazer. A Fairfax County transportation representative had been invited; but when he was unable to attend because of a death in his family, no one replaced him at the meeting.

Bull Run Civic Association Pres. Judy Heisinger — whose Centreville community is in serious jeopardy from both of these road projects — attended the meeting, but was definitely unhappy about how it played out. She's one of two people appointed by Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) to the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Battlefield Bypass project.

THIS GROUP IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE input in the FHWA's decision-making process, allowing it to object to any Bypass road alignment that could be detrimental to residents in Fairfax County. Yet so far, no one's sought out its thoughts or advice on the matter.

"What concerns me," said Heisinger after the March 31 meeting, "is that the Citizens Advisory Committee hasn't met since September, nor has it met since December's public meeting [on the Battlefield Bypass]. And the FHWA has to call that meeting."

She said the FHWA should be asking the committee's opinion and sharing with it comments received as a result of December's meeting. Yet, said Heisinger, Van Dop showed up at the event hosted by the Friends of the Battlefield.

Adding insult to injury, she said, was the fact that "there was no representative from Fairfax County at this meeting. As the representative from the Citizens Advisory Committee, I feel that Fairfax County was left out — and it's not quite fair."

Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) are being done for each project, but are nowhere near completion. Therefore, those asking specific questions of Wilkinson and Van Dop during last week's meeting were mostly out of luck.

For example, one man asked, "Assuming only one north-south corridor is constructed, what are the merits of extending Route 234 west of the Battlefield, as opposed to building the Tri-County Parkway east of the Battlefield?"

Replied Wilkinson: "We don't know, yet. That's the purpose of the study. We'll look at natural resources, wetlands, 'bugs and bunnies' and the social disruption of businesses. And cultural and archaeological resources will be cataloged."

Blazer said both the Tri-County Parkway and a Route 234 bypass north of the Battlefield are in Prince William's Comprehensive Plan. "Our traffic studies tell us that, by 2025, both of them will be needed," he said.

WILKINSON SAID THAT, "In a perfect world — [with the necessary government approvals and all the money needed for land acquisition, design and construction] — you'd be looking at nine years" before the Tri-County Parkway is built."

Van Dop said the Battlefield Bypass EIS will be finished, the end of this year. But, he added, the road's actual construction — which is as yet unfunded — "might have to be coordinated and scheduled [to possibly coincide] with VDOT projects."

He said the FHWA hopes to have a newsletter out, in the next couple weeks, narrowing down some of the alignment alternatives. Then, he said, "There'll be two more public meetings in Manassas — and we'll make a recommendation for a possible alternative at this last meeting."

Jim Fowler of Centreville's Gate Post Estates community noted that there's no linkage proposed between the Tri-County Parkway and the Battlefield Bypass. "It looks like they're being studied separately," he said. "It seems like noise and traffic studies on both should be put together."

Wilkinson replied that VDOT's analysis looks at other road projects in the area, plus alignments shown in the counties' Comprehensive Plans. So, he said, "The volume of traffic and the noise it generates are taken into consideration."

Afterward, Jim Hart of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee, said it's obvious that "there's tremendous interest" in both of these projects. But as far as Fairfax County is concerned, he said, "We're all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe they should coordinate these two studies with information about the Western Bypass project [from Fredericksburg to Leesburg or Frederick, Md.] and the I-66 widening — and look at all four projects together."